Imagine hundreds of frozen turkeys in one place.
Now imagine a gaggle of oblong parcels shrink-wrapped in shiny blue and white, yellow and brown, red and gold packaging, all piled against the wall of a multipurpose space like multicolored footballs.
These two scenes were part of last week’s activities at The Word in Action International Ministries, Inc., a Nazarene church and compassionate ministry that operates in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This year they distributed holiday staples to more than 900 families on Thanksgiving, and when they ran out of turkeys, they continued to give away chicken, veal, and ham, along with a variety of boxed and canned goods. On Thanksgiving day the organization served a record 75 meals, many to newcomers to The Word in Action.
The devastation from Hurricane Sandy pushed a number of people into the city to stay with relatives, placing a larger strain than normal on the food bank. “We are bare. We don’t have any food right now,” said Dr. Chantal St Phard, a pastor of The Word in Action. Though the year-round ministry is used to distributing as many as 3,000 boxes of food a month, the aftermath of Sandy has strained their resources. Meeting the Thanksgiving needs was a group effort, with partners from several local churches and organizations distributing meals to those in Philadelphia without the means to celebrate as usual.
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That same partnership is carrying the Hurricane cleanup forward across the Philadelphia District, where churches from multiple denominations are joining with a number of non-profit organizations, including Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and Nazarene Disaster Response.
“The immediate needs are being responded to very well,” said Newell Smith, Philadelphia District Superintendent.
In New Jersey, Grace Community Church in Pennington was featured on the local news as an example of churches working together. The church began relief efforts immediately following the storm, working hand-in-hand with local officials and emergency response personnel to aid their region using generators, chain saw crews, pumps and a mobile hospital clinic. Further south, Seashore Community Church in Cape May, NJ has been focusing their efforts on the nearby Port Norris community, providing food, clothing, water, and cleanup. As weeks pass, long lines of people still wait at the church to receive food. The Toms River Church is working with Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), using the church lot for parking and providing housing as they serve the worst-hit areas on the coast.
The worst-hit areas on the Philadelphia District were Cape May, Atlantic City and the barrier islands like Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island. And while the barrier islands are the site for a number of second homes, the year-round residents have lost all they know. “Our job now is to come alongside them,” said Smith. “We can’t replace memories, but we can fill immediate needs and help with long-term rebuilding.” And with its neighboring District of Metro New York bearing the brunt of the storm, teams from Philadelphia have begun turning their attention there, recruiting work teams and hosting volunteer groups. In Metro New York, the week ahead is scheduled to be the busiest week since Nazarene Disaster Response began its rapid response just days after the storm. While many residents started the cleanup immediately, others postponed the inevitable, and the amount of homes and structures still in need of mudding out remains significant. No one wants to see their lives taken apart and cast away.
“This is an emotionally traumatic experience for families,” said Rick O’Neil, “to see everything they own lost, including memories, photographs of family and friends, even computers where they backed up digital photos.”
Volunteers are coming in waves from North Carolina and other nearby districts. So far, 14 teams are slated to join the work between now and Christmas, including students from Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts and Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois. The teams represent an estimated 120 volunteers giving up their time and money to help others get back on their feet. “The biggest gift that they bring is not the sheet rock in the rebuilding of homes,” said O’Neil, “but it is their role in rebuilding the people. The compassion that they demonstrate to people in moving their possessions and helping them through the process is all Christ shining through.
” The fast-approaching concern now is winter. On the cusp of December, temperatures are dropping, and while many residents have electricity, the water damage to furnaces means hundreds of thousands of people still do not have heat. NDR is looking for funds to provide temporary heaters before looking into the longer-term needs of insulation, sheetrock and general rebuilding, and as media attention begins to wane, the funding will slow. “We know from other hurricanes it can take a long, long time to rebuild,” said Smith. “The long-term process is still ahead of us yet.”
How to Help: Pray for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the staff and volunteer teams who are working to rebuild.
Interested volunteers can contact Rick O’Neil at email@example.com with any questions. All teams must register as a Work & Witness team before they can be deployed.
Nazarene Disaster Response and Work &Witness are now moving into a long-term response phase and are requesting that all volunteer work teams please register with Nazserve at serve.nazarene.org under the “Metro New York District: Hurricane Sandy Relief” at serve.nazarene.org.
Crisis Care Kits are in high demand. These can be sent to Fawn Grove; further information is available online at www.fawngrovenazarene.org.
For individuals or organizations that wish to send material donations, please contact John Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations for emergency aid such as heaters, and longer-term cleanup and rebuilding are in high demand.
“Our job now is to come alongside them”